By Suzanne Sparrow Watson

Did this ever really exist?

From a land long ago and far away

Last week my brother was spot on with his observations about our current election process.  Sadly, it only got worse and more complicated as the week went on.  Reading his blog reminded me of the oft-used phrase, “we get the politicians we deserve”, which I thought was off-base this election cycle as who could possibly merit the current field of candidates?  Well, after traveling across country a couple of weeks ago I can tell you who deserves these people – slobs on airplanes.  You know the type; it’s people who dress like they have recently emerged from their cozy bed with nary a thought to actually changing their pajamas for street clothes.  But it’s not just sloppy clothing that make people slobby.   It’s also the people who are so self-centered and clueless that one can only assume they have been raised by feral cats.

Which, oddly enough, is how my journey from airline hell began.  My first flight was at 6:30 a.m. which of course meant I got no sleep at all the night before, what with waking up every 15 minutes to make sure I didn’t sleep through the two alarms I set.  The good news about such an early flight is the line for security is virtually next to nothing.  And yet…four people tried to break into the Pre-Check line because they thought they were too important to wait for the five people in front of them to go through regular security.  Once I had been thoroughly grilled by TSA about my dangerous Fitbit bracelet, I headed for Starbucks.  There is nothing like strong coffee in the morning to improve my mood so I was reveling in my cuppa joe at the departure gate when I heard an odd sound.  Odd because it was a familiar sound, yet strangely out of place.  The sound got louder and louder until it reached the chair across from me.  I casually glanced up and was somewhat startled to see an older woman pushing a wheelchair containing a screeching cat in a canvas crate.  Then to make matters worse, the woman unzipped the crate and tried to calm the cat down.  As a former cat owner I can assure you that there IS no calming a distressed cat.  The guy next to me leaned over and said “we can only pray she’s not next to us”.  Thankfully, she wasn’t.  I don’t know whether she smothered the cat or gave it drugs but I didn’t hear a peep from it again.


          SHUT UP!

On the leg of my trip to NYC I was happy that I had scored the aisle seat in the first row of coach.  There is nothing like extra leg room on a long flight.   As I eagerly stepped through the doorway to the plane I heard a man shouting in a panicked voice – I surmised it was an argument about a seat tilted back into someone’s upper groin.  But as luck would have it, “the voice” was seated right next to me yelling into his cell phone.  There was all manner of “I take full responsibility”, “It’s all on me” and “Tell him I’m very sorry“.  I assumed given the volume and urgency with which he was speaking that he was a surgeon who had just amputated the wrong leg.  But a few sentences further into the conversation it became clear that he was an insurance salesman.  I had visions of the hanging scene from “Airplane!”.  On and on he droned, without a thought to anyone around him.  One guy who was passing by on the way to his seat just rolled his eyes at me and said “Gosh, did you know he’s really sorry?”.   This went on until the flight attendant practically had to take a hatchet to his hand so he would turn his phone off. He alone is why the FAA should NEVER allow cell phones to be activated during flight.

Poster child for airplane slobs

Poster child for airplane slobs

My trip returning from NYC was only slightly better.  We had the ubiquitous crying children (only slightly better than a screeching cat) and the person next to me required a seat belt extender so let’s just say that I never saw one inch of the arm rest between us.  Finally, on my last leg home I thought I caught a break.  It was the first flight that wasn’t completely full and again I had the aisle seat in the first row of coach.  As I settled in a woman who looked like a refugee from the 60’s took the center seat next to me.  When the cabin door closed I realized that the window seat was vacant.  I waited for her to move over but apparently the Patchouli oil had gone to her head.  Finally I said “You know, you could move over to the window seat and then we’d both have a bit more room.”  She stared intently into my eyes and said, “You’re my kind of person!” but didn’t make any attempt to move over.  Oh boy.  Once we were at cruising altitude she finally changed seats.  I heaved a big sigh of relief until she bent down, took off her shoes and then propped her feet up on the bulkhead.  To say that the odor smelled like a dung heap would be an injustice to the dung heap.  Thankfully, she fell asleep for most of the flight and my nostrils adjusted to the smell.  But of course, she wasn’t done quite yet.  Upon awakening she took a rotting banana out of her bag and proceeded to eat it.  When I say rotting, it was WAY beyond even being considered for banana bread.  When the flight attendant came to pick up garbage “Ms. Summer of Love” handed the blackened peel off to her.  The attendant handled it like a dead rat.

So, to my earlier point, these are the people that deserve our current Presidential candidates.  On a more positive note, and speaking of Presidents, also on my flight to NYC was the author, Douglas Brinkley, who was on a book tour for Rightful Heritage: The Renewal of America.  Mr. Brinkley is clearly in need of a new agent; he was seated far back in coach.  I came into contact with him as he was waiting in the aisle undoubtedly held up by someone several rows back attempting to hoist their pet goat into the overhead .  I told him that I was a big fan of his writing.  He couldn’t have been more gracious.  Upon reflection, I now realize that I should have knocked off “Cell Phone Man” so Mr. Brinkley could take his seat and we could have had an engaging conversation about the Roosevelts and Presidential politics in general.  I know…the Patchouli oil has gone to my head.








Let Me Have SomeBy Suzanne Sparrow Watson

This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of a wonderful little book, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”, by Reverend Robert Fulghum.  For those of you too young – or too old – to remember, it included an essay proposing that the basic rules we learn as children teach us everything we need to get along as adults.   It contains a list of 16 suggestions for a better life, ostensibly gleaned from the copious notes   Fulghum took while still in elementary school.

I re-read his essay the other day and had to admit that there were some real gems on the list:  play fair, clean up your own mess, and a current favorite of mine  – take a nap every afternoon.  All in all, I think his essay has held up pretty well after 25 years.  With one notable exception.   Reverend Fulghum’s #1 piece of advice was “Share Everything”.

It would appear that this particular tidbit has been taken a bit too literally.  At some point between 1988 and now, it has become fashionable to SHARE EVERYTHING.  Been in a public place lately?  I’m betting that people on cell phones have “shared” lots of information with you.  I’ve heard conversations about cheating husbands, women who neglect their children, steamy dating details and so many medical updates I could write for Web MD.  Put a cell phone in someone’s hands in the public square and suddenly no detail is too intimate to share with the world.

Facebook is so enamored with the notion of sharing that it has a “Share” button, which makes it easy to delight our friends and family with an up-to-the-minute status of our activities.  Personally, I love seeing pictures of my friends and Facebook Sharetheir kids and animals.  I even enjoy vacation pictures.  But like everything else, some people have taken it to excess.  I’ve read about colonoscopies, induced labor and ear wax.  One particular bugaboo of mine is people who take pictures of their dinner plate at a restaurant and immediately post it on Facebook.  Frankly, I could care less that some chi-chi chef has curled radicchio around a terrine of goat’s liver.  I don’t even care about seeing a triple bacon cheeseburger, although that’s more to my liking.  Here’s my take – if I wanted to see food on a plate I’d subscribe to Gourmet magazine.

But the most flagrant offender of over-sharing  is Al Roker.  He recently released a book outlining his journey through gastric bypass surgery.   I have nothing against Mr. Roker or even gastric bypass, for that matter.  But in the course of an interview Mr. Roker cited a passage from his book about the White House dinner he attended shortly after his operation.  He then proceeded to tell the interviewer that – well, I won’t go into detail here but suffice it to say that he soiled his pants.

Talk about TMI!  Why in the hell would someone go on national TV and admit that?  I can tell you one thing based on personal experience:  you will never look at Al Roker in quite the same way again.

But back to Reverend Fulghum’s book.  The “share everything” bit notwithstanding, I do think there is a lot of common sense in his list and God knows that is something that is in short supply these days.  So in the interest of sharing and promoting common sense,  here is his list:

  • Share everything.
  • Play fair.
  • Don’t hit people.
  • Put things back where you found them.
  • Clean up your own mess.
  • Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
  • Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
  • Wash your hands before you eat.
  • Flush.
  • Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
  • Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
  • Take a nap every afternoon.
  • When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
  • Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
  • Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.
  • And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.

And while we’re thinking of sharing, why not share this blog with your friends and ask them to subscribe?  Thanks!